Monday, 23 May 2016

death of a doxy

On Saturday 7th May I finished reading Death Of A Doxy by Rex Stout; it was quite good.

I got it, with another Rex Stout, as part of my birthday present from Bethan. It's in the modern US edition that all the Nero Wolfes I've bought new have been in. I remain amazed that they seem not to be in print in this country and are only available in an imported edition.

It was published in 1966, but (perhaps even more so than later Agatha Christies I've read) nothing much in it to indicate it wasn't written and set in the 30s or 40s. 1966 was the year Mr Stout turned eighty, so perhaps not too surprising.

As with other Nero Wolfes I've read, it didn't disappoint, written with wit and well plotted. It's not that long a book, and that's fine too. I'm going to have to start a list of which I've read; I should have started doing so sooner, because a number of the titles are quite similar (especially those which contain three stories); I'll need to check back in my diaries...

Like all those in that series I've seen, it comes with an introduction by someone (different people for different volumes) I don't know who I guess is probably an American detective author. As often in introductions of this kind (which I've learnt to read after reading the book, not before, as they often give away a lot of the plot or dictate your interpretation), it is apologetic/defensive about an aspect of the writing that would be different today, in this case sexism. In general I find this rather patronising, as if we can't read book from different times and places without understanding, and appreciating the insight; and in this specific case, I didn't think it was warranted, as what they talk about is clearly a particular character's relationship to women, and one which is not depicted as normative. Anyway, there it is.

First line: I stood and sent my eyes around.
Last line: I wish you well.

The cover follows exactly the same pattern of all the covers I've seen from this US import edition (which seems to be the only edition available here in the UK). They help you to recognise the series, at least, but don't help the memory much of whether you've read this or that one in particular; and the colour combination and illustrative style are rather pastelly, and redolent of insipid afternoon tv dramas, but perhaps that's the look and audience they're going for (which is a shame if so, because they deserve a good deal better than that). A nice touch on the spine is the picture of an orchid, which Nero Wolfe grows as a hobby. Actually the most striking thing about the cover is the basic mistake in the illustration. The death of the titular doxy is illustrated by a woman's hand with some blood on a bed, but the body is found (on the first page, so this is no spoiler) on the floor.

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